As a photographer with a sensibility for style, finding a dapper camera bag can prove a challenge. The market is full of highly functional products that promise to withstand the toughest abuse in the field, yet most sport the same boring black canvas appearance that leaves bag lovers unsatisfied. Turn to the European luxury brands, and you will find very few options, most of which lack in technical refinement and make your piggy bank cry. Another option could be to buy padded dividers for your favorite messenger bag, but where would be the fun in that?
The good folks at Ona Bags aim to balance appearance and function while keeping your precious optics safe from damage. For the past few weeks, I have been carrying my dSLR and rangefinder kits in the Ona Brixton, and today I am here to tell you all about it.
The Brixton is a crossbody camera and laptop messenger bag. It comes in a variety of materials and colors, and the version I was loaned is of the Antique Cognac Leather variety. It was designed to carry up to a 13″ laptop and a dSLR with up to three lenses, kept separated by four padded, removable dividers. The main flap is held in place with the help of two brass tuck-clasps, which add a nice touch and go well with the leather. Up front you will find two pockets, and at the back of the Brixton there is an additional, large compartment, secured with a magnetic closure.
The Italian-tanned leather comes in a lightly waxed finish that promises to build a nice patina over time. In three weeks of daily use the cognac bag already shows a lot of character, as the leather scuffs pretty easily. To me, that is a good thing as I love the worn-in, well-aged leather look. This comes in handy during travels, when you want to attract as little attention as possible to minimize the risk of getting your gear stolen – a worn bag blends in. Major plus points here.
Inside is enough space for a small dSLR kit or a full rangefinder or mirrorless kit. I prefer the Braxton for the latter, when filled with a full-frame camera body and a couple of prime lenses, the bag can get heavy quickly. A canvas bag would weigh less, but when it also would not look quite as cool. The laptop sleeve fits a 13″ Macbook Air comfortably, a 13″ Macbook Pro fits with a bit of a squeeze.
The rest of the compartments and pockets are easily accessible, but sadly don’t provide as much space as one would like. The leather is quite thick and, by extension, stiff, and the front pockets don’t extend out much; the space is limited to a few batteries, a small charger and a few filters.
The back pocket has me puzzled, as it offers its contents little to no protection from the elements. In rainy weather, water will trickle from the top of the bag right into the rear because the magnetic closure provides no real seal. Additionally, the single top handle just above the rear pocket proved to be frustrating, as the bag tips forward if held up by it. I’d personally get rid of it altogether, as the shoulder strap is non-removable and the to handle doesn’t provide much in the way of added functionality. These are design flaws that I hope can be revised for future versions of this otherwise splendid bag.
While the function suffers slightly from a couple of design flaws, I find the Brixton to be a great-looking camera bag with sumptuous leather that is priced fairly at $419 (canvas versions start at $269). I can’t wait to see what the leather will look after another few months of heavy wear.